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  • Writer's pictureJulia Straka

Focus on Safety in Film Production

How the Heck do you Social Distance When Making Movies?

Author Julia Straka directs Studio BDC producer Brian McClure toward the hand-sanitizer.

When COVID-19 disrupted business this spring, industries found and implemented new and whatever they might consider safe ways to carry on: restaurants switched to takeout, retail went online, and many commuted to their couch for Zoom meetings.

But how can film and production companies social distance when top-quality content calls for in-person shoots human interaction?

“In our business, it took a ton of research and consultation,” says StudioBDC Executive Producer Brian McClure. “The primary goal is to keep everyone alive, of course," he adds. “We value our work and what can be achieved, but after all, compared to our health, it’s only a business.”

After working with health professionals and closely monitoring evolving industry standards, StudioBDC developed a comprehensive set of clear protocols to keep clients and crew as protected as possible Understanding that social distancing only works if everyone works together, priority now is placed on both crew and clients to follow the guidelines and look out for one another.

First, all masks, all the time. “We do our best to stay six feet apart.” says McClure. “We gather the fewest employees possible, and ask the same of our clients.” When it comes to sound and audio recording, StudioBDC features boom and self-applied lavallier mics. In fact, the mantra heard most onset is, "wash your damn hands."

“We love our makeup artists,” says Director of Photography Jay Mallin. “But there’s no on-set glam until the situation improves.” Instead, the crew provides single-use applicators for last minute touch-ups.

There’s a good deal more paperwork. Visitors and crew scheduled to be on set sign a safety form confirming that they have not put themselves at greater risk for contracting the virus in the last two weeks, and affirm their personal network is recently free of unhealthy symptoms.

"All I know is you have to pay attention," says Cameraman Nick Taylor. "Going on set? Better have that red pass!"

After forms are signed and approved, temperatures are taken daily before work can begin. Shiny red "all-access” passes are issued accordingly and crew and visitors are tracked carefully, allowing only those cleared to be on set.

Sets and workplaces, as well, are always clean, but now they are sanitized. “We verify that building managements deep clean the locations before anyone arrives,” says McClure. “We designate roles to keep them that way, continually cleaning gear and props and doing simple things like taking out the trash.

Again, he asks, "have you washed your hands?"

With conditions and situations always evolving, the folks at StudioBDC understand it can be hard to settle into anything even resembling a new normal. “We communicate regularly with our crew, and anyone part of our filming and recording sessions,” says McClure. "The safety protocol list is distributed along with the daily call sheet, and we provide clients clear direction the night before.”

While it seems like a lot to keep track of, the stakes are high. At StudioBDC, as various situations arrive day in and day out, one clear mandate remains: focus on safety.


Julia Straka is a senior at University of Richmond, and summer intern for StudioBDC

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